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What Causes Homelessness

What Causes Homelessness

It is estimated that more than 300 million people are homeless all over the world. Leaf through this article to know the myriad causes which lead to homelessness.
Ashwini Kulkarni Sule
Homelessness is amongst the prime social concerns that plague developing as well as developed countries. About 11% of the US population is affected by it with more than 1 million homeless children. Homelessness is defined as a state in which a person is unable to afford a permanent nighttime shelter. There are several socio-economic causes, which are different for each country. Basically there are three different categories of homelessness, transitional, which refers to a period of 59 days or less, episodic, with 4 to 5 incidents amounting to a total of 266 days or less and chronic with 2 or more incidents, accounting to a total of 650 days of homelessness. Earlier, unemployment was considered as the most common cause, however, statistics reveal that more than 25% of homeless people are employed.

The Causes


Poverty is the most significant of all the causes of homelessness in America, as well as in the rest of the world. Low income deprives people of housing, education, health care, child care, etc. Since, housing eats away major portion of people's minimal income, they opt to do away with it.

Mental Illness

Homelessness and mental illness are closely related. About 22% of homeless people suffer from some sort of mental illness. People are often abandoned by families and friends who cannot support a mentally ill person. This condition also hinders the chances of gaining employment for a person. In worst cases, mental illness encourages substance abuse.


Lack of education or illiteracy limits one's ability to find a decent job. As a result, people have to put up with jobs that pay less and offer long working hours. The wages are not enough to cover the housing expenses of the concerned individual or family.

Substance Abuse

Drug abuse or alcohol abuse often results in people being thrown on the streets. Broken relationships, loss of loved ones, depression, financial woes, etc., force people to resort to substance abuse. This worsens the situation of a person as he or she is unable to find an employment.

Domestic Violence

It is mainly associated with homeless women and children. About 50% or more women leave their homes owing to abusive relationships. Physical and sexual abuses are the main causes of teenage homelessness. Most of such children and women flee domestic violence by embracing shelters on the streets.

Institutional Discharge

People who are released from prisons after serving a long sentence often take shelter on the streets, since they have no families to go back to. Similar is the case with people released from mental asylums or other such institutions. Lack of government interest to support such individuals by providing permanent shelter often results in homelessness and crime.

Legal Issues

Legal issues prevent people from becoming eligible to government subsidiaries and other housing finance assistance programs. Inability to produce a permanent address or means of communication also hinders one's prospects of acquiring an employment. Immigration issues also lead to homelessness in the United States, as one is unable to produce legal documents to claim a residence.

Lack of Community Support

Families that suffer from major setbacks such as death of sole earning member or other such grave problems are often supported by community support groups or some other social organizations. Lack of such solid support system can lead to homelessness for the family.

Besides, certain other social factors like ethnicity and color may also offer challenges for some families in having a roof over their heads. The ever rising cost of housing has aggravated the problem of homelessness all over the world. It has serious implications for the entire society. Not only does it leads to increase in crimes but it also poses a threat to social security and integrity. People living in the streets are more vulnerable to attacks than those living inside homes. Similarly, it also exposes them to various infections and other health hazards.

Homelessness can cause a state of unrest amongst the entire society if it crosses the common threshold. Nevertheless, various programs like housing assistance as well as employment opportunities have been launched to support people affected it.